There are many ways to develop software. Each has its benefits and drawbacks. “Waterfall,” for example, once ruled the day by having the work load flow from the top phases of development to the end levels, going from conception to design to construction to testing to completion in an orderly fashion. “Agile” is another, newer method, and it has quickly taken over to become the dominant way that many firms like to work.
Agile is a development process that demands real-time collaboration, constant adaptation, and ongoing improvements throughout. It is less focused on step-by-step thinking and instead relies on daily interactions in which many aspects of the project are discussed, debated, and hashed out in what are known as “scrum meetings.”
And Agile’s rise to prominence can be a boon to Mexican programmers and coders, because its core principles make the time-zone complications of sourcing software development from Indian and Asian companies unworkable.
“I’ve lived through this,” said Chris Riley, content strategist and DevOps analyst for Fixate, a content marketing firm for tech firms based in the Bay Area community of Livermore, California. “We started out with a waterfall approach with our outsourced developers and it fell apart, mostly because there was no way to communicate what was in our heads to the developers.”
“Nearshore centers can benefit from offering the pure Agile software development models, where the nearshore centers are in the same time zone as the client site.” – Carlos Amaral of Alsbridge
In time, Fixate was able to work through the issues, but it required hiring a project manager qualified to break the project up in chucks and better communicate, through the language barriers. Using this and some other DevOps processes, the company has found a working solution. And he notes that there are still some benefits of the time-zone difference with India. For example, his in-house employees in California can raise concerns during the day and know that the Indian workers will address them before Riley even wakes up the next morning. But challenges remain. “If we’re not up late, we can’t field questions very easily,” said Riley, who notes that their twice-a-week Skype calls with the developers take place at 9:30 Pacific time.
While workarounds and concessions are worth it to some who have found good partners in other parts of the world, more companies are starting to understand going to such lengths isn’t necessary. There are so many good developers in Latin America and they work in the same time zone. While the costs can be a bit higher when contracting with a Mexican firm than an Indian one, most are realizing that the ease of communication and cultural affinity benefits far outweigh saving a few dollars.
Carlos Amaral, a director at Dallas-based advisory firm Alsbridge, notes that a lot of North American companies currently use “hybrid” models to work in Agile. Indian companies will maintain a local, U.S.-based team as well as an Agile team back in India that works around the clock. This approach can work well for American firms, but the fact is that it often means getting second-rate talent.
People like to sleep at night, and the ones willing to work when most of their family and friends are in bed are usually not the elite. So even though Agile is possible working with partners in Asia, there are still drawbacks. “Nearshore centers can benefit from offering the pure Agile software development models, where the nearshore centers are in the same time zone as the client site,” said Amaral.
Patrick Heffernan and Geoff Woollacott of Technology Business Research sum it up. “Over the longer term, the 10-hour time difference with the traditional outsourcing locations won’t work during this transitionary period in our industry,” they wrote at Nearshore Americas.
Software development trends can come and go. Even Agile is still evolving. But when talking to those in the industry, it is clear that Agile is the new king. So as India’s geographic challenges leave it struggling to keep up with the latest ways of doing business, Mexico has a great chance to step in and win this business. It is just up to the many talented developers and programmers in the country to get their name out among the U.S. companies that are now looking for alternatives.
“The pace of change will depend primarily on skills and experience, two areas where LatAm developers can influence their own destiny and have seen previous success,” wrote Heffernan and Woollacott. “The time is now and the steps to success are clear: invest in skilled people, deliver to current clients, and build lasting relationships that become trusted partnerships.”